Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30th Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina – 

I realize this is really late today, but I just couldn’t shake the cobwebs this morning. You wouldn’t have wanted to read anything I wrote, that’s for sure!

Waiting for breakfast.
It doesn't get much prettier than this!
We picked the girls up around eleven at the dorm and took them out for breakfast. My youngest daughter and niece’s first experience of dorm life was quite uneventful. When they got back to the room, my oldest daughter popped in a movie and my niece fell asleep before the half-way point and my youngest was out cold before it was over. Then they didn’t wake up until ten, so their college experience consisted of the challenge of sharing a bathroom. LOL.

The water's still kinda warm.
The MONSTER hill.
After breakfast, which because of the wait at the diner wasn’t until 12:45, we walked down to the waterfront, to the shuttle back up the monstrous hill, then strolled along Church Street. Too soon it was time to bring my daughter back to school and for us to start our journey home.

Too funny!
One of the many Church Street performers.
I LOVED being able to see her, but it was really difficult having to leave her again.  We won’t get to see her again until November 23rd when she comes home for Thanksgiving. Fifty-four more days! I wish I could sneak up there again, but the $125 in gas is a lot right now.

View of Champlain College from the Champlain Bridge.

The alternate route we tried worked well. Basically the first third of the trip was exactly the same, but instead of staying on Route 9 all the way around Lake George, we turned on to Route 74 and that brought us out to Route 87. Although Route 74 is hilly and has a few turns, especially around Eagle Lake, it is nowhere near as treacherous as Lake Shore Drive. If handled with care, I should traverse it without incident, even in questionable weather.

We’ve decided my daughter should fly home on November 23rd, but we are still debating as to when we should book the return flight. Should we do January 4th or March 9th? I want to pick the day which would have the worst road conditions so I can avoid traveling then. Either time in Vermont could be nasty. If any of you have an opinion as to which day I should pick, PLEASE let me know. I would like to book the flights in the next week or so, but that may not happen. In the meantime, I’m going to keep checking the sites to see when a good deal comes up or if a better deal would be for her to fly up after Thanksgiving and back down before spring break. (The current rate for the original dates I wanted is between $450 - $600, so that’s not going to happen!) Either way, if she flies in, she’ll be coming into LaGuardia and not Newark, but it will still be better than driving to VT!

OK, I have to go clip coupons and make my grocery list. My daughter should be home from school in about half an hour and when she gets home, I want to do the shopping and then swing by my mom’s to pick up our dog.

I hope you enjoy the remainder of your day, and happy writing!


Your Last Challenge was:



I know he’s in there. Don’t ask me how. I just know. I’ve been dreaming about this place for weeks; the dreams started several days before the little boy was abducted. Each night the dream got clearer, I could see more and more details. Then last night I actually saw Tommy’s tearstained face, heard his calls for help, and I woke crying myself.

I couldn’t tell anyone about my dreams. Who would believe me? Heck, I didn’t even believe me. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. But then when things I dreamt about started showing up on the six o’clock news, I couldn’t deny what was happening.

It all started with just your run of the mill nightmare; shadowy figures and just a general sense of dread. Then the figures became more solid, their plan more concrete. The next dreams started rather pleasant, kids playing in the park. I didn’t even make the connection until I saw the shadowy figure lurking in the trees. I saw it lure a little boy to it and then they were gone. Two days later, local tv was plastered with stories of six year old Tommy Adams being abducted. The only witness was another six year old. She described the person who took Tommy as really tall and dressed all in black.


Your Next Challenge is:


A song on the radio triggers a strong memory.


You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 29th

Hi it’s Christina –
Greetings from Burlington, VT.

Due to an erroneous 4:45 wake-up call, I’m awake. It is going to be a LONG day!! I started with checking my emails and there was one from a new group I was invited to join on LinkedIn. This group has you submitting an excerpt of a book (yours or another book you’ve read) and the link to where the book can be purchased. Hey, just one more avenue to advertise my book, so I was all for it. I went to upload an excerpt from A Second Chance, and I found ANOTHER typo. ARGH!! How many hundreds of times going over it and how many editors will it take until this dang thing is error free?

So this started me going in and fixing all the various places where A Second Chance was loaded and making the correction. (grown/groan – which I SWEAR was fixed on the first editing run.) I started with Kindle, and Kindle has now changed their program and the book cover file was no long valid, so I had to deal with that as well. Finally got that taken care of (only took an hour) and I uploaded the new content file with the correction. It will be available sometime in the next 12 – 24 hours.

Next I tried to tackle the file for the hard copy of the book on CreateSpace. The file is NOT loading! After it finally loads, I have to go through the whole review process again, so it may be a week before it is available. I still have to fix the Nook version, but I am dreading whatever obstacle that may throw in my path, so I decided to take a break and do the blog instead.

One of the surprises for my daughter that I couldn’t blog about yesterday  was, we brought her cousin up with us for the visit. The squeal my daughter let out when my niece popped out of the car was probably heard for miles! Needless to say, it made her day.
We did take the girls out apple picking as planned, and we went out for dinner last night. Can you guess where we went?

The girls stayed in the dorm with my daughter last night instead of with my husband and me at the hotel. I can’t wait to hear the stories when we go pick everyone up for breakfast! I can only imagine…

In a couple of hours we will be picking up the girls for breakfast and then we will be spending the day along Church Street. I figure if we leave between two and three, we should get home at a reasonable hour.

All these trips up here, the directions sent us around Lake George. If you have never been to Lake George, the roads are twisting and winding, going up and down some crazy hills. I was dreading having to traverse these roads when the weather turned sour, so I went hunting for an alternate route. While I drove, I kept seeing signs which pointed to Route 87, the road I took to the turnoff for Lake George. That lead me to believe there should be a spot further up Route 87 I could take to avoid the Lake George loop. Low and Behold, I found an alternate route! Route 87 meets up to Route 22 which links me to Route 7. Route 7 takes me directly to my daughter’s front door. Want to know the best part? Not only does this route simplify my trek to four roads, it also shaves almost an hour off of my travel time. I am looking forward to trying this new path on our way home!

Oh well, enough playing. I am going to try and get the uploads to work so my book will be available again. Say a little prayer for me that it goes better than it did earlier. I’m convinced technology and I will never be on friendly terms!

I hope you enjoy this glorious fall day, and happy writing!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September 28th

Hi it’s Christina –

It is 2:30 am, and we will be leaving in half an hour, but since I needed to get some coffee in my, I thought I’d write y’all a little note. To say I’m excited to be seeing my daughter is an understatement. I really miss my kids when I don’t get to see them every day. When my husband told me on Friday morning my son had stopped by after I had gone to bed, I was bummed for the rest of the day because I missed the chance to see him.

I wanted to thank you all for helping me with my circulation request on Facebook. Yesterday’s numbers, at least for that post, were up considerably. I guess the posts over the next few days will determine if the “fix” worked or not. If you missed my request, here’s what it said:

I have a HUGE favor to ask all of you. Please hover over my picture until the like/message appears. Once that is open please click on "show in newsfeed" and then go into settings and click on "all updates". 

It is crazy that so few of you actually get to see my posts. I figure you "Liked" the page for a reason, and FB should honor your reason, not filter what you get to see. 

Chances are, only a few of you will actually see this post, so if you are friends with another of my followers, please share this with them as well.

A special thanks to Haven Malone via Maggie Shayne for the fix to my FB dilemma.

Oh well, I only had a couple of minutes, so I should get going. I hope you get a chance to get outside this weekend and enjoy the glorious weather! Happy Writing! (Work on your last prompt, you have until Monday and it only takes 10 minutes or less.)

Friday, September 27, 2013

September 27th Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina – 

I have several errands to run today, but I am not going to be specific in the off chance my daughter reads my blog today, because one of the stops is a little surprise I need to bring up to college this weekend. I will say, one of the errands may or may not prove to be a fool’s quest. No, I am not in search of a left-handed wind shifter. However, I will be looking for a power strip with a long cord. My FIL insists they do not exist, my husband says they do, and I’m pretty sure I have seen them. If I could find one with an eight foot cord, I’d be happy. They confiscated my daughter’s brand new extension cord last week, stating it was a fire hazard, so now I need to find something compliant and long enough to reach from the wall plug to where everything is set up. I don’t want her to have to reconfigure the room.

I still have to pack up my husband’s and my clothes, and get everything situated in the car. We will be leaving at 3:00 am, which means several things. 1) I will be in no mood to be packing and/or arranging things at that hour, so everything needs to be done before I go to bed. 2) I will be going to bed ridiculously early so I can be rested to drive the six hour up to VT. 3) There probably will not be time for a blog tomorrow. On that note, I can pretty much guarantee I will be up before everyone else on Sunday, so I will post a blog entry that morning, but I think we’ll hold off until Monday for the next writing challenge.

Speaking of the blog, I put up a survey to see what types of writing challenge y’all prefer. All you have to do is click on a button. You don’t need to post any comments, so it should be painless even for all you shy writers. Please, I would really like some feedback so I know I am gearing this blog towards YOUR needs. Your choices are Photo Challenges (no explanation needed), Specific Scenario Challenges (I set up an entire scene for you), Broad Interpretive Challenges (I only give you a few words and they can take you in any direction you want), and finally 3 Word Challenges (where you have to incorporate all three word given in your reply). These are the four challenges I do the most, but occasionally I will throw in one like I did yesterday where you needed to start your challenge with a specific phrase. I do intend on borrowing Keith’s A-Z challenge and doing the classic “write your own obituary” at some point as well. As I have said several times already, I am open to writing challenges you suggest as well. So please, chime in, let your voice be heard!

OK, I’m off to take a shower and get going on my long list of chores. I hope you have a wonderful day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Start your story with “Sundays always meant…”

Sunday always meant waking up early for Sunday school and church. It meant either stopping at the bakery on Oak Tree Road or to La Bonbonniere on Lincoln Highway for cheese danishes for breakfast. Some Sundays meant lunch at one of the grandparent’s houses or occasionally to my great aunt’s.

Lunches there always meant roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy.  Uncle John would bring the meat downstairs where, for some reason, he had a deli grade meat slicer. He would always sneak me the first slice and say, “Shh, don’t tell.” When we visited Aunt Julie (my grandfather’s sister) and Uncle John, it was always a “whole family” event. That meant my grandparents, my aunt, uncle and cousin, my mother and me would all go.

There was not a whole heck of a lot for my cousin and me to do when we were there. Chances were the TV was playing, but Uncle John usually has some sport or other on, and we really weren’t all that interested. So, we would either try entertaining ourselves outside, but since Aunt Julie and Uncle John had no children, there wasn’t a swing set or any toys to play with, so it was just as boring outside as it was inside.

The one thing that did keep us busy for a little while was they had carpeted stairs which lead from their living room up to their attic. My cousin and I would climb to the top of the stairs and then have races sliding down them on our butts.

Out of time…

Your Next Challenge is:


You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 26th Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina – 

I woke this morning to the first light of dawn peeking through my window. It took a moment for this fact to register in my sleep fogged brain, but when it did…AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! The alarm didn’t go off! I jump up and start running around like a chicken on fire, for now it is 6:47 (a full hour and forty-seven minutes beyond when I should have woken up), the exact time my daughter’s bus should be pulling up. I get my daughter up, call the school telling them she’ll be late, make her lunch, shove it into her back pack, then, low and behold, guess who comes down the hall ready to go… my daughter. She managed to get ready in less than fifteen minutes! We jump in the car and I get her to school…and, are you ready for this? Five minutes before the bell!

So now that I’m up and three quarters of the way to the grocery store, I decide to go shopping for the things I needed to bring up to my other daughter this weekend.  (She sent me a list.) I get all the food things on her list plus a few extras and I’m back home by 8:15, just in time to wake my hubby up for work. Not exactly how I wanted to start my day, but it has been surprisingly productive thus far.

Now all I need to do is make sure I locate the remaining things on my daughter’s list, get the car packed up (the groceries have already been stored in a bin and it is in the car), and then get our own stuff packed for our trip. I’m so excited. I haven’t seen my baby in over a month and I miss her!!

The school has a bunch of activities planned for the weekend, but the last thing I want to do is sit in lectures and presentations, so we are going to kidnap her and take her apple picking instead. We will all go to Saturday night’s dinner sponsored by the school, but other than that, I am going to be selfish. We will be getting there around ten on Saturday morning and then we’ll be leaving around three on Sunday, so that’s less than thirty hours. I want her all to ourselves for as many of those hours as possible.

It is spirit week at Champlain College, and below is my daughter’s dorm’s entry for the stoop decorating contest. The theme is "America the Beaverful" (they’re the Champlain Beavers). If you look at some of the other photos, many of the other Freshmen dorms only have a few kids participating in the contest. Then when you see the photos of the upper classmen’s entries, you realize what a big deal the event is; something Freshmen probably had not anticipated. Now I’m not saying my daughter had anything to do with this, but after four years of events similar to this at her high school, I think she may have had a part in rallying her dorm mates into action. Another photo showed several more kid participating, but it wasn’t a clear shot, so I chose this one instead. (My baby is right in front with the striped scarf.) They are singing the Star Spangled Banner for the judges.


I hope you have a great day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Just one bite…

That’s all it took. Just one bite. And now look at me. I’m a mess. But how could I resist? It looked so good. Sitting there looking so luscious and sweet, it was practically calling, “Eat me…eat me.”

I knew I shouldn’t have. I remember what happened the last time. I knew the results could only get worse, but I just had to have a taste, just one little bite. Now I look like a cartoon character! My mouth resembles a plunger. My skin has a brindle effect, and the effort it is taking not to scratch has me practically vibrating.


That’s it, I give up. It originally started as a vampire theme, but that didn’t work either, so I deleted it – all three sentences I managed to write. It was more on the lines of “Love at First Bite” as opposed to “Dracula” anyway. Dang, when I posted the challenge yesterday, I thought it would be a good one. Guess I just wasn’t feeling it today. It happens. Better luck tomorrow…

Your Next Challenge is (something a little different):


Start your story with “Sundays always meant…”


You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September 25th Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina – 

UGH! My husband has lousy timing. He got up to use the bathroom half an hour before my alarm was to go off, so now I’m awake even more ridiculously early than usual. I tried to go back to sleep, but then I heard what I thought was one of those emergency alarms you get on your phone, so I got up. Again UGH! I checked my phone, but there was nothing on it. I remained confused about the alarm until my daughter woke up and told me she had fallen asleep with her TV on and it was one of the emergency alert tests. Cryminies! Why would they test that thing so early in the morning?

Writer’s workshop was fun last night. We only had eleven people because three of the regulars were attending another function at the library, and another one got a flat tire on the way. The young kid I told you about, the one we were all so impressed with, he won’t be coming until soccer season is over and I think the others only came the first week to see what the group was about. That’s fine though, twenty-two was a bit too big; ok, way too big, at least for the room they gave us.

The group was in a mood. Some of the responses to the prompts were hysterical. Even this one adorable couple, who are considerably older than the rest of the group, came out with a few whoppers. Just like here in my blog, the group is given only ten minutes to write their responses to a prompt. It really blows my mind what people can produce with very little forethought in such a small amount of time. Todd, the gentleman who runs the our critique group, is also a member of our writer’s workshop, and the stuff he comes up with is absolutely amazing. Last night one of our prompts was it was either December 24th or 26th, but either way we were Santa, and he had us in stitches with his story about a Jewish tailor who took a job as a Macy’s Santa. We were literally rolling.

And then there’s Joanne (you’ve seen some of her responses to my prompts here on the blog), she has an uncanny ability to catch a mood or tone and make her reader be right there in the moment with her. Some of her things are witty, some have a twist you never saw coming. She can make you laugh, think, and, what I think might be her best talent, feel.

Week after week, between the writer’s workshop and the critique group, I am in awe of the incredibly gifted writers who surrounded me. Each with their own completely different writing style and voice; yet almost everyone has impressed me and I have enjoyed listening to what they have written even when it was something I never would have chosen to read. The perfect example is Keith. You know, because I have mentioned it a few times, I don’t read horror. I don’t care for it. It scares me. Being scared is not an enjoyable feeling. I avoid it. Keith writes horror. Keith’s writing is marvelous. Am I going to sit down and read his entire book? No. I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep for a month. But when he reads excerpts, once every two weeks at critique, I can handle it. I am instantly mesmerized when he begins to read. So much so, in the moment, I’m too distracted to be scared. (When I think about it afterwards is when I get the willies.)

We have others who are doing memoirs, again something I would not choose to read, but I find myself looking forward to hearing the next installment. Granted there have been a few pieces which were not my cup of tea, but even within those, there were certain phrases or observations, which were truly brilliant. I’m not delusional, I know what I write does not appeal to everyone. Some are going to love it, some are going to hate it, and that’s ok. But, even if what I write isn’t someone’s “cup of tea”, I hope they can at least find some redeeming qualities within the work.

I hope you have a great day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:


Describe something edible without saying what it is - let us try to guess.


The smell permeates the air, bringing with it a flood of childhood memories. The temptation to peek into the oven to see if it’s ready is almost overwhelming. Five, four, three, two, one, the buzzer sounds. Carefully I remove the pan and set it upon the cooling rack. Juices still bubble through the slits in the bumpy crust. My mouth waters as the aroma, a combination of spice and sweet fruit, assail my nostrils, but I can’t cut it yet. It’s still too hot. I need to wait until it has time to cool, to set, or the filling will ooze everywhere and make a mess.

Every five minutes I touch the pan. It needs to be warm, but not hot. As my patients starts to wear thin, I move the cooling rack closer to the open window to allow the cool autumn air to speed the process along. I touch the pan again, almost ready. I get the vanilla ice cream from the freezer and set it on the counter so it can thaw slightly, enabling an easy, perfectly formed scoop. Plates, forks, a knife and a server join the ice cream on the counter. I touch the pan a final time. Perfect.

With great anticipation, I hold the knife over my masterpiece, making sure the first cut falls dead center. Slowly I let it sink in through the layers of crust and fruit. When the tip reaches the bottom of the plate, I drag the knife to the edge, ending with a decisive snap to get through the thicker fluted rim. I continue the process until eight perfectly formed wedges appear.
The time is at hand. The moment has arrived. The first slice is removed and placed on a plate. Some of the juices spill out, but for the most part, it holds its form. Next comes the scoop of ice cream to top it off. As the frozen confection meets the still warm crust, it begins to melt and mingle its creamy goodness with the escaping filling. I hand off the first piece to my youngest child and watch her eyes light up with excitement. She forks the first bit into her mouth. Her eyes close and she moans in complete bliss. I still have three more slices to deliver to waiting hands before I can have my own piece, so I quickly repeat the process.

Dang, less than a minute and I would have been done. So, what am I eating, or was about to eat? Funny, I now have a strange urge to bake today...

Your Next Challenge is:

Just one bite…


You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 24th Challenge

Hi, it’s Christina – 

I give up trying to figure out Facebook. I noticed a trend where if my posts contained links, then FB would not circulate the post and the amount of “people who saw this post” would drop by as much as 90%, so I stopped putting in links. On the other hand, posts with photos had a tendency of increasing my “people who saw this post”, so I try to include a picture. Yesterday’s post had a photo and no links, so you would think I’d at least hit my average, right? NOPE, down about 65%. THERE IS NO RHYME OR REASON.

I am convinced FB is doing this for two reasons: 1) to drive us completely insane; and 2) to get us to pay to boost the posts. They have succeeded with their number one objective, but I will hold firm on the second one. You offer a service for free with the option of paying for a better service – FINE. I have no problem with that; many companies do the same thing. HOWEVER, don’t sabotage the “free” service in an attempt to get people to purchase the upgraded service. Not only is it unethical, they are shooting themselves in the foot. What are you willing to pay more for, something that works great and you get good results with, or something you are getting spotty results with? Their “free” should be their hook to get folks to want more of their incredible product. Isn’t that Marketing 101? The customers who to choose the upgraded service will pay for the people who only elect to use the free service, and if you think about it, the “free” service requires very little actual manpower. This is a virtual business after all.

OK, I’m done ranting over something I have no control over. From now on, I am going to make a conscious effort to ignore the “people who saw this post”, well, at least I will try not to let it bother me.

I have my writers’ workshop tonight, which means I won’t be home for dinner. It also means I have to have something ready for my husband and daughter to eat while I’m not home. This is an ongoing Tuesday night challenge, because I don’t want them to have to eat the same thing every Tuesday night. For tonight, I decided to do pulled pork in the crock pot. I usually just throw the pork in with a can of beer, let it bubble away for several hours. Then, about an hour before I want to serve it, I take it out, pull it apart, drain most of the cooking juice, add some BBQ sauce, then toss the meat back in to cook for the last hour. The last time I made it, I added some apple cider vinegar and reduced the amount of BBQ sauce considerably, and it was the best pulled pork ever.

So, do you have a pulled pork recipe you think is great? Want to share? If you have any other recipes to help me with my Tuesday dilemma, I am open to suggestions! I hope you have a fabulous day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

        It’s moving day…


Good God in Heaven, how much stuff can one family have? Twenty-seven boxes, and that was just the kitchen! Can someone explain to me why anyone would need three garlic presses? Well, at least that’s what I think they were. Not that I ever used them. Four boxes were cookbooks alone. The entire culinary academy couldn’t make all those recipes.

Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a family room, a garage and a basement – at the rate we’re going, we are going to need a second truck. Oh brother, I forgot about the sheds. Yes I said sheds; not one but two. The new plot of land is the size of a sneeze, why do we need to bring the John Deere? Who cares if it was a gift from your beloved dead uncle…SELL IT!

Do we really need to bring the electric fireplace (which hasn’t worked for years) with us? The new house has a real fireplace; not that a fireplace in Florida makes a whole lot of sense, but we have one none the less. Broken small appliances, zillions of computer parts, scraps of wood – we have a dumpster, use it! Dear Lord, can someone please tell me where I packed the wine?


This will more than likely be me if we ever move. J



Your Next Challenge is:


Describe something edible without saying what it is - let us try to guess.


You have 10 minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.